Greg Jansen rides down Creekside Trail during the Sept. 18 downhill race.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Greg Jansen rides down Creekside Trail during the Sept. 18 downhill race.

Steamboat Ski Area's summer trails up for comment

Downhill-only and beginner paths in Forest Service plan

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Click here to see plans and map.

To comment

Send the U.S. Forest Service an e-mail with the subject line “Steamboat Ski Area Summer Trails” at comments-rocky-mo...

Drop off comments or mail them to Janet Faller, of the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests, Hahn’s Peak/Bears Ears Ranger District, at 925 Weiss Drive, Steamboat Springs, CO 80487.

— A summer of planning and discussing is starting to turn into action for Steamboat Ski Area, much to the excitement of local downhill mountain bikers.

The ski area, which introduced a new trails master plan in spring, had a professional trail-building team scouring Mount Werner’s slopes through the latter half of the summer and submitted all of its plans to the U.S. Forest Service.

Now, the Forest Service has reviewed the blueprints and is seeking public comment. If that goes well, the new look for the mountain’s hiking and biking trails could be approved by May 2011, and construction could begin late in spring or early summer.

“I’m really excited that we’re going through this process with all the right steps to get trails on the mountain,” said Cory Prager, coach of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s downhill mountain biking program and a local advocate for trails.

“It’s a great thing to get the community’s input on what needs to happen and what people want to happen,” he said. “It will help all aspects of cycling on the mountain when you put downhillers in a certain spot, cross-country riders in another spot. It’s a huge step for us.”

At the heart of ski area plans up for consideration is a downhill-only freeride mountain bike park that will occupy the center of the ski area below Thunderhead Peak and the top of the gondola.

Other trails, including the popular multiuse Valley View trail, will be rerouted to accommodate the freeride zone.

A number of the first downhill-only trails are detailed in the Forest Service’s appeal for public input.

One, an intermediate trail, would stretch 3.6 miles, starting on National Forest ground, cutting outside the ski area’s permitted boundaries on several occasions before finishing on ski area property near the base.

It will be near the existing Valley View trail and will intersect with that path once. Another section of Valley View would be abandoned and turned into another downhill-only trail, with a new portion of the Valley View trail being built to replace the old.

Another advanced trail is set to run 3.2 miles, from lower Why Not Road near the top portion of Vagabond Trail to the base of the Thunderhead Express chairlift.

A beginner trail also is set to be constructed, tying the trails at the Thunderhead Express chairlift to the gondola base area.

Although many new downhill-only options are expected to become available, several trails that are ticketed as multiuse will become uphill-only. When the new downhill trails are finished, downhill travel will be restricted on Zig Zag and Valley View trails.

“Trails will be designed for a range of experience levels,” the Forest Service release said. “Downhill trails will be ‘roll-able’ without pedaling and have no long uphill sections. Beginner trails will be designed to encourage slower speeds. Advanced trails will provide more challenging options.”

The Forest Service is asking commenters to include name and address information and to make submissions by Oct. 28.

Written comments can be mailed or dropped off for Janet Faller at 925 Weiss Drive, Steamboat Springs, CO 80487. Faller can be reached at 970-870-2174, and faxes can be sent to 970-870-2284.

Comments also can be submitted online at comments-rocky-mountain-medicine-bow-routt-hahns-peak-bears-ears@fs.fed.us, with the e-mail subject line “Steamboat Ski Area Summer Trails.”

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